Jasmine An

“Angel/Devil,” Chante Lasco

ONE OF MY FIVE BODIES WAS BORN A DRAGON AND BECAME A HORSE

One of my five bodies was born a dragon and became a horse   in atonement for eating another horse.  Underneath my white horse’s coat were scales that chafed  my rider’s thighs—but I was the rider too and I believed   the world contained a finite amount of pain.  If I could just hold it all, I could hold it all.  But instead I chanted a certain spell,  and my third body fell to the ground clutching my head.  I was the King of Monkeys and had, as a child, joined the circus and jumped rope on top of gleaming metal globes and laughed  when other children fell.   My second body told me that I needed pain to learn humility,  but my fourth body—which had been cursed to suffer  the stab wounds of seven flying swords every day  unless I stayed submerged in the river—didn’t believe me.   Humility was the skulls of the nine monks I’d eaten  refusing to sink and instead floating at my hip  until I braided them into a necklace  that I still wear as a reminder,   just like the new name chosen for my fifth body  is supposed to remind me of restraint,  of adhering to the eight precepts, but I’ve crushed a perfect sand dollar  between my fingers just to feel it shatter   and I’ve switched the labels on Christmas presents  and I’ve walked into a woman’s bedroom with no other intention than to feel the both of us naked and magnetic and so alive   that the demons for miles around will come hungry to our doorstep because they know that immortality is eating the flesh of a holy being.   The demons don’t know my bodies collide in moments like these.  My hooves hit the ground and split into claws as sharp as my teeth  that once ate monks, yes, and demons too,           and once upon a time  these hands overthrew heaven itself, and even though my heart          is soft and easily bent, it is also born of a wild magic that stretches  my five smiles wide across this single mouth to say—I am no one’s meal.  


PRAYER FOR A FAILED MASC

On the beach, there is a boy wearing an American flag around his waist. He is scooping handful after handful of sand over the dead body of a baby seal ringed with stones while his brother surfs in the 6pm sun. His brother leaves, and the boy is still there, the sand falling through his fingers, and the seal’s head thrown back as if to keep an eye on him, seeking reassurance. Then a stranger walks by with a camera, and the boy hurries to brush his hands, pick up a boogie board, and run for the waves.  Later, my fingers tangled in the silk of a bowtie, I think of the seal, half blanketed in sand, and of the icy thrill of pride whenever someone mistakes me for a man, and of the boy, his freckled back bent and running, and of the beautiful, wounded creature whose skin he and I both try, and fail, to dress ourselves in.




BATESIAN MIMICRY

When the motor scooter hits me from behind, I don’t even fall  off my bike, just skid forward across the white line, then look back  to see the other driver bounce his scooter up onto the sidewalk,   careen into a telephone poll. The motorists around me mutter  about tourists. I mutter along, under my breath so they can’t  hear my accent. The light goes green. I pedal and don’t look back.   The riders around me avoid eye contact. I keep pedaling and pretend  indifference. I bought this bike here to blend in. No one walking in a city where no one walks. Instead, I brush shoulders with men  on motorbikes as they outpace me. If I keep pedaling, they won’t know  I am no more Thai than the hoverfly is wasp. The Syrphidae family  wears bold stripes and pointed abdomens, but they must keep flying.   The moment their wings stop beating anyone can see the awkward  angles of joints that proclaim them pretenders. I can neither rub  the accent from my Thai nor fold my wings flush to my sides   like a wasp so I keep flying, my tires hovering over the shoulder  of the superhighway. Behind me, the tourist wrestles himself  from the sidewalk and slips back into traffic, helmet pulled low   over his eyes. We are alike in our disguises, and if he passes me  at the next light some five minutes later, I do not recognize him.

ONE OF MY FIVE BODIES WAS BORN A DRAGON AND BECAME A HORSE

One of my five bodies was born a dragon and became a horse

in atonement for eating another horse.
Underneath my white horse's coat were scales that chafed
my rider's thighs—but I was the rider too, and I believed
the world contained a finite amount of pain.
If I could just hold it all, I could hold it all. 
But instead I chanted a certain spell,
and my third body fell to the ground clutching my head.
I was the King of Monkeys and had, as a child, joined the circus
and jumped rope on top of gleaming metal globes and laughed
when other children fell.
My second body told me I needed pain to learn humility,
but my fourth body—which had been cursed to suffer
the stab wounds of seven flying swords every day
unless I stayed submerged in the river—didn’t believe me. 
Humility was the skulls of the nine monks I'd eaten
refusing to sink and instead floating at my hip
until I braided them into a necklace
that I still wear as a reminder,
just like the new name chosen for my fifth body
is supposed to remind me of restraint,
of adhering to the eight precepts,
but I've crushed a perfect sand dollar
between my fingers just to feel it shatter,
               and I've switched the labels on Christmas presents
        and I've walked into a woman's bedroom with no other intention
than to feel the both of us naked and magnetic and so alive
that the demons for miles around will come hungry to our doorstep
because they know that immortality is eating the flesh of a holy being.
                                   The demons don't know my bodies collide in moments like these.
                                   My hooves hit the ground and split into claws as sharp as my teeth
                                   that once ate monks, yes, and demons too,
                                                    and once upon a time
                                 these hands overthrew heaven itself, and even though my heart
                       is soft and easily bent, it is also born of a wild magic that stretches
              my five smiles wide across this single mouth to say—I am no one’s meal. 








PRAYER FOR A FAILED MASC

On the beach, there is a boy wearing an American flag around his waist. He is scooping handful
after handful of sand over the dead body of a baby seal ringed with stones while his brother surfs
in the 6pm sun. His brother leaves, and the boy is still there, the sand falling through his fingers,
and the seal's head thrown back as if to keep an eye on him, seeking reassurance. Then a stranger
walks by with a camera, and the boy hurries to brush his hands, pick up a boogie board, and run
for the waves. 
Later, my fingers tangled in the silk of a bowtie, I think of the seal, half blanketed in sand, and
of the icy thrill of pride whenever someone mistakes me for a man, and of the boy, his freckled back
bent and running, and of the beautiful, wounded creature whose skin he and I both try, and fail, to
dress ourselves in.








BATESIAN MIMICRY

When the motor scooter hits me from behind, I don’t even fall
off my bike, just skid forward across the white line, then look back
to see the other driver bounce his scooter up onto the sidewalk,
 
careen into a telephone poll. The motorists around me mutter
about tourists. I mutter along, under my breath so they can’t
hear my accent. The light goes green. I pedal and don’t look back.
 
The riders around me avoid eye contact. I keep pedaling and pretend
indifference. I bought this bike here to blend in. No one walking
in a city where no one walks. Instead, I brush shoulders with men
 
on motorbikes as they outpace me. If I keep pedaling, they won’t know
I am no more Thai than the hoverfly is wasp. The Syrphidae family
wears bold stripes and pointed abdomens, but they must keep flying.

The moment their wings stop beating anyone can see the awkward
angles of joints that proclaim them pretenders. I can neither rub
the accent from my Thai nor fold my wings flush to my sides
 
like a wasp so I keep flying, my tires hovering over the shoulder
of the superhighway. Behind me, the tourist wrestles himself
from the sidewalk and slips back into traffic, helmet pulled low
 
over his eyes. We are alike in our disguises, and if he passes me
at the next light some five minutes later, I do not recognize him.





Jasmine An comes from the Midwest. Her work exists in Black Warrior Review’s Boyfriend Village, Nat. Brut, and Waxwing, among others. Author of two chapbooks Naming the No-Name Woman and Monkey Was Here, she is Poetry Editor at Agape Editions and a PhD candidate in English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.

Chante Lasco was born and raised in Clinton Township but now calls the Chesapeake Bay Area of Maryland home. A lawyer by training, she finds creative expression in photography, a passion she inherited from her grandfather, along with his Nikon F camera.

lsa logoum logo
U-M Privacy Statement
Accessibility at U-M